At market and in the farm kitchen this week

Pickings were slim this week at our market booth and a few others as the cool weather and gray days were again here more than gone.  We could hardly believe that there was so little growth from last week’s harvest to this week’s.  This happens in early spring, but the pace of growth usually continues to get faster and faster as we approach the summer solstice.  The longer days usually mean more sun and warmer temps, but not so this spring.  We have had funny (although really, not so funny) conversations with a few other farmers, commiserating over wet fields that can’t be tilled and spoiling crops and worries about the rest of the season.  There is some solace in this, knowing we are all in the same boat.  It’s wild that in every year of this farming adventure, the weather has provided such a hurdle in one way or another.  It is one of the constants of farm life, I suppose.

Still, the farmer keeps smiling; and as hard as it has been to have lower than average harvests (and thus, sales) at market this first month, the CSA harvests have been good.  And as much as I go back and forth these days, becoming irrationally worried that it really will never warm up this year…I am sure that it will (right?)!  Either way, we are happy that we plant diversely enough to squeak by even if we had a crazy year that just stayed cool.

Even this guy, who is ever so serious as you can see, isn’t too worried even though each week he struggles to find enough flowers to fill his bouquets and this year’s annual flower  seed plantings are no more than an inch high and only barley inching there way higher each week.

In the meantime, market shoppers, CSA members, and us alike are all eating well from the springtime bounty that the earth is providing.  Salad turnips, eaten peeled and whole by the children, or sliced and added to our salads, or in tasty recipes like this turnip slaw (minus the sweet pepper), are so good.  We also saute them a lot, simply by themselves as a side dish, or in a dish such as this, with chard..mmm.  The turnip greens are some of our favorites, too.  They end up in soups or curries, lending to dishes their small mustard tang and nutritious greens goodness.

Kohlrabis are one of those fun, unique vegetables that are such a joy to look at, and after peeling away all those knobs and the thick outer skin, make a mama’s life easy by being a fast snack to set on the table, tasty just to munch on as they are.  But since we end up with so many, we use them in many of the same ways we use salad turnips as well.  Grated and made into kolrabi slaws with turnips or alone, or used as you would cucumbers in the summer to make this yummy salad.  Someone just mentioned to us at market this week that when they lived in Germany, in the winter they always made that sweet, creamy cucumber salad we all love in the summer with turnips instead.  We are trying it with the kohlrabi this week!

Spring always means lots of parsley and green onions, thrown in many, many dishes, but especially any kind of cold vegetable or grain salad (our go to market day make ahead lunch standbys).

And of course, sweet, beautiful lettuces!  This we eat for the rest of the season, but it is always the best in the spring, after a winter without lettuces.  And, for Farmer’s market shoppers, it is always nice to be able to get good quality meat easily each and every week.

Spring, too, brings about the time when our family begins to harvest some of the years first meat chickens and some of last year’s baby goats, finished on freshly growing spring green growth.  And finally, after almost a whole year, the last half of our spring piglets from last year were processed as well.

We don’t eat a lot of meat, and we especially don’t in the winter unless our freezers are stocked from our farm or others sources we trust.  We round meals out with legumes a lot of times, but we also can’t eat wheat and dairy, and most other grains aren’t really very good for us either, so good meat is definitely a spring blessing for us.

And we have, of course, been enjoying those special treats of spring that we don’t yet have growing on our farm.  We picked up asparagus last week, roasted it and swooned.  And strawberries, twice a week, from each market, get brought home and devoured.  We planted both of these crops this year.  The strawberry planting looks good, the asparagus…questionable.  We will just have to wait and see next year.  This year, we are waiting, as well.  Waiting for summer to come, but enjoying what we have right now as well.

Worth the wait

This is actually a photo from last week’s CSA harvest, but this week’s harvest is much the same, with some blushed leaf lettuce, lacinato kale, and the sweetest, most beautiful green onions as well.  The weather this last week, too, has been much the same–cloudy, cool, and wet.  But there was last Saturday, a bright, warm day where the sun more than said hello.  And this weekend looks to be even warmer.  In fact, right now, the whole of the extended forecast has a sunny image to accompany it, even though the temperatures will stay a little below average.  We are so ready for sun!

In the meantime, many things are gestating quite well.  We have beautiful cabbages, broccolis, and kohlrabis that have thrived this spring.  And some of the crops we have covered with recycled plastic this year are growing faster than our “normal”.  We have buds forming on our summer squash already!  We are doing constant battle with the bugs.  We have so many more slugs this spring; they love the cool, wet weather.  We have lost a lot of unharvestable lettuce and kale, and they continue to eat a small percentage of each cucumber planting we make.  The farmer has taken to placing an exorbitant amount of seeds out, and they get most of them.  But we just keep replanting these and other crops, like the beans whose earlier plantings have been so stunted by the wet conditions.  Still, even one really sunny day like last Saturday blesses us with a bit of green returning to the yellowed bean leaves and we find dead slugs all over the paths as they try to find a retreat from the heat.  Its a balance for sure, everything, between the positive and negative.

One of the biggest positives for us is that our fruit trees are loving all this water.  We will have to irrigate our newest plantings so much less this first year and they will be so far ahead next year because of this great start.  And our newest little human sprout is doing well too, almost 2/3’s of the way grown with a very comfortable mama.  Even though I prefer the sun on my skin, I can’t help but feel grateful not to be hot…yet.  Soon enough, all the flowers will be blooming and we will all be back outside all the time, with our summer vegetables and our picnics and barbecues.  When we returned home from The Market last Saturday, the sun had opened some of our cheery, summer flowers, the poor buds of which have just been sitting there, waiting.  All of our waiting is almost over, and small surprises and delights, just around the corner.

Abundunce

The exciting news this week is ripe tomatoes! We know you have all been waiting and waiting, and this is really just a small bit of the very first, still nothing to write home about; nevertheless, as some of you saw at this weekend’s open farm, the tomato planting is massive this year, so there will be no shortage of everyone’s favorite garden vegetable. Since things are just getting started, we will be picking off the cherry tomatoes for the next couple of weeks. After that, all of our farm pick-up members can pick from these every week at pick-up if they desire. Likewise, the cut-flower bed, a project idea that barely came together this year, is flowering nicely, albeit only a handful of varieties. Feel free to ask for help cutting some flowers to take home if you’d like, or ask our expert bouquet man, our oldest son Olorin, to pick one for you. Olorin has brought a small amount of cut flower bouquets to each and every farmer’s market this year, a business he has enjoyed and is considering expanding next year! Maybe with his help we will have a wider selection of flowers for the u- pick flower patch next year!  And it is almost canning time; once the tomatoes hit full speed, we will let all of you know about extra picking for winter preservation.

Our main winter preparedness goals lie in the fields. We have been working overtime to be well prepared for our second season of continued harvesting through the winter. There have been bumps in the road these last few weeks. The potatoes that had looked so good this year are now showing signs of distress. We imagine that yields will still be good, but his high cost start up crop is always leaving us wanting more. The parsnips planting we tried everything we knew to get started still hasn’t germinated, four weeks later. Notoriously hard to start, we can only try again in the cooler weather, with
hopes of smaller parsnips in early spring.

But, the planting and planning is still more positive than not, especially for us, eaters who have come to relish the flavors of these coming crops probably more than even the ubiquitous fresh tomato. Not to say these summer flavors aren’t just right for this time of year. Simple, vegetable laden dishes are fast and filling on busy summer farm days, and being able to snack on so much, from cucumbers to tomatoes, simply out of hand in the fields is a blessing. And being in the midst of abundance does wonders for the soul. Zucchinis and cucumbers and tomatoes up to our ears, a sign of the graciousness of the earth to bear fruit, and reminder to be thankful for all that we do have.

August Rush

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August is here, and all of a sudden the steady pace we have held to since spring’s crazy planting rush has picked up tempo again. We are in the thick of fall’s planting, which is a rush just like in spring, but feels even more like a race since we aren’t working our way towards warmer, faster growing weather where late plantings often play catch up, but rather towards the cooling down, the slowing down. Unlike most crops in the spring line-up, which are often going to be planted in succession anyways or want to be planted when its nice and warm so there is no hurry anyways, we have pretty clear deadlines on most of our last plantings of the year if we hope for adequate growth and sufficient yields to make it through the fall, winter, and early spring. So, there is a lot of clearing house right now, prepping beds, and general angst about whether it will all get done because we also happen to be in the thick of summer’s glorious but unrelenting fecundity. We felt like all we could do last week was harvest and water, demands of the heat and its boost in productivity all of a sudden in the fields. The weeds enjoyed a week of undisturbed growth as well while we were busy, but the farmer and our wonderful farm help managed to make pretty good mileage against those yesterday. Really, the fields at this point are the tidiest we have ever been able to manage, so that will be a boon as we push through this month, perhaps our busiest of the year.

But even this August rush isn’t all there is to come. Its bramble time, blackberries in the mornings. Sunflowers and zinnias, tomatoes too. Dark purple fingers picking bright orange and red and yellow, the colors of the height of summertime. As much work as there is to be done in what seems to short a time, being able to do this work, to be out so fully in this time of year, to notice every bit of it and to love it for its beauty as well as its hectic routine, it is all worth it, for a zillion reasons. The greatest of which, aside from our own personal pleasure in living this life, is sharing the bounty of these fields and this labor with all of you.

Summer love

cucumbers

I am sure that at this moment, we all have one thing taking up residence in our minds, filling in all the spaces between our many other thoughts, unavoidably resurfacing in the front again and again. And what could so ubiquitously bring us together in such grand collective consciousness besides the weather: it is hot! Not just hot, I guess, but HOT…at least hotter than we are used to; and really, hot for most everyone, except for those folks in the desert areas, where HOT, from my recollection, could be closer to 120 degrees than 100. That is the kind of heat that makes you sure your dog is going to die as you travel through. But still, heat is heat, and although I am not worried too much about the animals here, we do have to give them extra attention during these high temperatures. Salt nibbles out of hand for the goats, fresh mud baths for the pigs…the dog, with her furry coat, just digs into the cool ground and lays under the porch.

We, too, are pretty bothered and hot, feeling yet again the affects of poor insulation in an old manufactured home and not a lick of shade to protect the house on the south and west. The icing on the cake of this less than ideal scenario is that the west wall of the house is all windows, of course, so that the house dwellers can enjoy the wonderful view. Add to the pot a scant amount of opening window space and none of them set up for providing cross ventilation, and you have a recipe for an oven of a home. Still, as much as we curse poor house designs, we are never really ones to dwell on the back side of the hill. We aren’t really even all that bothered, just hot.
So, in this vein, I have been stewing a list of all the really great things about this heat, some jewels for us all to remember as we work and play and try to get some sleep in these next few really hot days, and the only somewhat less hot days to come. It is summer after all, and like any other season, it’ll come and go sooner than later. Every minute we have the opportunity to gain a memory to hold onto as things change, constantly change, and move forward, faster than I ever could have imagined as a child.

Top on our list of happy thoughts are that the plants love, love, love this heat. Granted, they were regularly well watered to this point, so that isn’t a consideration or worry for us or them. Instead, they have a lushness, a green, and a vibrancy this week that is just different. Not that they didn’t look beautiful before, and not that plants don’t thrive under our normally less than extreme summer temperatures, but I have a comparison point. After moving here from the hot summers of the Midwest, I haven’t really seen this kind of summertime boom in our garden. Really, it has more to do with the night temperatures than the day, and having this little heat wave, with nights barely dropping below 70 degrees…ooh la la! Plants primarily grow at night, using up the daytime to feed themselves via photosynthesizing. The summer plants love for the heat to remain through the night, and grow they are. This is something we will all benefit from! And although we won’t see it in this week’s harvest, we have harvested the first red tomato, a beautiful striped roma, and surprise of all surprises (for us anyways, since eggplant usually are the last summer crop to ripen for us) a single, gorgeous eggplant. The banana peppers, almost ripe!
Another thing we are thankful for…getting to take the afternoons off! What else can we do really? It is unbearable to continue field work, and unbearable to stay in our home (per the reasons mentioned above). And so we head out with drinking water and sun hats and find a place to get wet! And because it so very hot, we don’t even have to get into the water in that slow and cautious gingerly manner, we can run and jump right in! And when we do, the water, even in the creeks, is warm or cool, not freezing cold! It feels so good, better than any regular mid-temperature summer swimming could. And if
you are young enough or can get away at night, we actually have fit weather for night swimming! To swim on a hot summer’s night with the stars overhead…..lovely!
And as we hope to experience ourselves today, the heat we have here hasn’t left the Oregon coast cool and windy, but nice and warm, warm enough to let that cold ocean water scent your skin with its sweet saltiness even if you’re an adult. The smell of summer’s flowers lingers in this hot air, and maybe if you have a little child she will go out into the tomato patch and when you pick her up, she will smell just like tomatoes so you will squeezer her tight, the smell of a summer garden! And you will crave vegetables even more than you normally do! At least that is us, with scant an appetite
by dinnertime because of this heat, fresh vegetables are the perfect food. Cucumbers, zucchini or white Lebanese squash, cabbages, and steamed beets or blanched green beans all make simple and elegant vegetable salads with not much more than a nice vinegar and a quality olive oil, some fresh herbs, sweet cipollini onions or tasty scallions, and some local walnuts or hazelnuts or delicious artisan cheese for a little bit of protein. And after the 100 degree days simmer down to the mid-90’s, we are back to perfect outdoor grill dining, and nothing tastes like summer more than grilled vegetables!
So, dwell with us, in these joys of summer, heat and all. As I know I write about again and again, our lives are tied to the seasons with such intricately weaved strands that intersect with every little aspect of our lives here on the farm. I was always one for the seasons, they were so distinct where I grew up. By letting ourselves fully submerge into what makes each one unique, by creating and maintaining associations and memories, activities and foods for each one, it makes there coming and going all the more dear, and provides us with the beautifully complimentary pull of sweet and bittersweet,
loving and longing, for each in its own way, to accompany us through the days.